I was reading up recently about church attendance and membership, and noted that the Gallup poll shows that a little less than 40% of Americans regularly attend church. Another study, conducted over the past twenty years, shows the number to be half that. Neither of these studies addressed the question of the ratio of actual membership to those who simply attend. Many congregations these days, in fact, do not practice formal membership at all, for a number of reasons. And many people who claim to be followers of Christ strangely do not believe it is important or necessary to align themselves with a local congregation.
In the BPC we think it is biblical and important. While it is certainly possible to have informal relationships with others without the benefit of a covenant, without one there can be no standard vocabulary of practice, no clear definition of what it means to be part of the visible Church (and thus, no clear basis for fellowship), no basis for discipline, no ability to fulfill certain commands and principles of the Scriptures, and no certainty of continuance for the long haul. (These reasons, in fact, are precisely the same for the formal institution of marriage, if you think about it.) This relationship is not just about showing up, but about mutual obligations of diligent and loving service to one another and to the Lord.
We rejoice, therefore, when others of like precious faith see things this way, too, and even more so when they desire to covenant with us here at Providence BPC. Over the winter months, a number of folks have taken the membership classes we offer, and now have joined with us officially. What is truly remarkable is how widely these dear saints were dispersed before coming here: Bob and Joan Schmitt moved to our area from Calgary; Joe and Susan Clark from Arizona; Kenton and Hillary Goh and their family from Tennessee; and Rachel McMillan from Florida. In our prayer request bulletin insert last month we introduced the Seeley family who came to us from central Idaho, and there are others on the horizon as well who are seeking to live in the reality of joyfully binding ourselves in the Lord to one another as a visible testimony in the world around us. God be praised! —Rev. Len Pine